Blog Post Analysis

Two new features we have launched on BlogStreet: Blog Post Search (search which takes you directly to the blog post and not the web page) and RSS Generator (to create RSS feeds of blogs which don’t have one).

At the heart of both is the belief that blogs are different. They are made of blog posts and not web pages. So they have to be treated differently. The correct units when dealing with blogs are the blog-posts and their permalinks. Blog Post Analysis is an attempt in building a platform for blog analytics by identifying and presenting the fundamental units of blogs, the blog-post. [More]

It is in beta now, and also has XML-RPC services to allow developers to take advantage of the platform. Look forward to your feedback for us to build upon these.

Technology Wishlists

Information Week reports from Microsoft’s annual CEO summit with some quotes of what users want:

“What I expect from our IT systems is to be reconfigurable and adjustable to a full group of users,” said Klaus Kleinfeld, president and CEO of Siemens USA. “If I have people sitting in Sweden who specialize in offshore oil drilling, and I have a customer sitting in Texas who wants to do some offshore oil drilling, I need to make sure, in the shortest time possible, that the data flows.” There’s huge potential for companies that can figure out how to tap more quickly into the knowledge of individual employees, he said.

While much of the payback in recent years has gone to the bottom line, the target going forward will be customer-oriented initiatives, predicted Accenture chairman and CEO Joe Forehand. “If you look at the whole area of customer relationships, the cost of acquiring and servicing customers is higher than ever,” he said. “And brand loyalty is at a lower point than we’ve ever seen.” What’s required to win customers is deeper integration of marketing, channel, and customer-support functions combined with better business intelligence, Forehand said. “We need to get true insights, with the whole branding and channel strategies, right to the people who are directly serving the customer.”

Among the biggest and most basic problems encountered in companies is that the most popular collaboration tool, E-mail, can suck productivity from workers just as easily as it helps them. “We still struggle with the issue of E-mail in our [corporate] culture,” Siemens’ Kleinfeld said. “We have wonderful, beautiful tools that have made access to information very easy. That’s a blessing. On the other hand, we haven’t established rules, which makes this a burden on us and partially a curse.”

E-mail and other desktop applications could be more intuitive and easier to use. “Make it simple,” Marks implored Raikes. “You’re killing us” with features people don’t or can’t use. He joked that Flextronics would pay a premium for light versions of Microsoft’s apps. “We need to simplify those kinds of products, where people spend less time interacting with the product and more time meeting with customers and getting the job done.”

Nice Way to make a Presentation

Dave Winer has an alternative approach to making a presentation (as compared to a slide show): a linked reading list. “Then, when I take the stage, I bring up the reading list in a browser, projected for all to see, and it’s got all the links right there for things I want to refer to during the speech. It provides people who want to prepare beforehand a way to do so, and gives people something to look at after the speech. No more awkward flipping through slides while speaking, and no more worrying about forgetting something important. A happy medium.” Must try this out sometime.

Real-Time Everything

Two recent developments are worth considering:

– The war in Iraq and now the unfolding of the post-war Iraq are being played out in real-time in front of the world. Every small incident is magnified through the lens of the world media and bloggers.

– An extreme example of this was the sequence of events that led up to the resignation of the editors of the New York Times in the Jason Blair reporting scandal. Bloggers and some of the mainstream media kept the story alive.

What we are seeing is the result of an “always-on” and “globally connected” world. It is a small world. What happens in one plae can be known anywhere else on earth almost instantaneously. The pressure because o this becomes immense. I can imagine the Bush team being forced to readjust strategy on a daily basis in view of the reporting that is going on. What they need is time to rebuild Iraq, and that is not easy when the world is watching you on a daily basis.

This also applies to organisations. New ideas (and think of the post-war Iraq as one) take time to mature – it is difficult to evaluate success on a daily basis. Because we are so well connected, the feedback cycles have become shorter, and this can cause an infinite, iterative cycle of adjustment, which can be quite disastrous for new, innovative ideas. They need time and in some ases isolation, and that is harder than ever to get in today’s world. See how SARS blew up – not as muh as the atual disease, but the information about the disease. A little “information isolation” may not be a bad thing, after all.

Just as I wrote this, I cam across this comment from Thomas Friedman:

Last Sunday, I offered a “brief theory of everything” about why so many people seemed upset with America. The thesis: America has begun to touch other people’s lives more than their own governments do and therefore people all over the world want to be able to vote on American power. I invited readers to e-mail me their thoughts.

I’ll never do that again.

So far I’ve received over 8,000 e-mail messages from America and all over the world.

If there was any more evidence needed of our new world, this is it!

RSS newsreaders are TiVo for blogs

Phil Wolff makes a profound comment: “RSS newsreaders are TiVo for bloggers…Newsreaders like NewzCrawler and Radio UserLand do TiVo things. Time shifting. Easier, more complete channel and program selection.Season pass for your favorite shows. Record in the background while playing in the foreground. Save a post to your blog instead of to your VCR.”

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TECH TALK: Constructing the Memex: OurMemex

Groups are an integral part of our life at work and outside. Some groups are ad-hoc and have a limited existence (for the existence of a project), while some others are much longer-lasting. From the Memex perspective, groups work as aggregators. They provide the collective intelligence and knowledge of a collection of people.

There are two ways to create and participate in Memexes create by groups. The first approach is to have an OurMemex constructed jointly by group members. Think of this as a community weblog. Slashdot is one such example, where anyone can participate in the discussion. Corantes Many weblog on social software is another example, created by a closed group of experts. The second approach is to specify a cluster of bloggers. In some ways, this is just like creating a blogroll with a list of bloggers for a specific area. The features of the OurMemex would be identical to that of MyMemex, except for the ability to have multiple people participate in its development and thus be able to connect different people.

We are beginning to see the early versions of people connecting software in the form of Ryze, Friendster and LinkedIn. The general term used to describe such solutions is social software. Jonathan Peterson writes about why social software is taking off now, and the wider context it fits in:

Tools to help automate knowledge working are almost non-existent. The lack of standard processes for knowledge working has meant that tools for automation are almost completely a matter of individual choice and remain strikingly primitiveThe tools for knowledge management haven’t appreciably improved in the last 20 years; email integration and shared folders are the only significant features Outlook delivers that Sidekick didn’t have in 1984. And while tons of VC dollars have been spent on intranets and portal creation software, the whole concept of centralized knowledge management feels wrong to me.

Attempting to create a consistent vocabulary and taxonomy across an entire enterprise is misguided. It should be obvious that everyone is unique in the mental models that they create to structure their knowledge. What’s more the knowledge that workers create must be portable, for no matter how much companies would like to lock employees’ ideas away as intellectual property, the cross-pollination that occurs when people move from company to company is critical to innovation. We should be building tools to encourage innovation and collaboration, not to constrain it or control it.

This seems a domain where open data exchange standards, P2P technologies and powerful desktop computing are the right models. The integration of personal and published web content, content and concept sharing, RSS aggregation and publishing, blogging, email filtering/storage/extraction and powerful collaborative searching is bringing a real revolution in knowledge working productivity into view.

Knowledge work tools (and processes) have almost overwhelmingly been designed around project TEAMS. But more and more work is being done in more casual WORKING GROUPS. The individuals who make up working groups have vast differences in their available time, their level of commitment and their levels of expertise. The Internet has made it likely that group members will also differ, not only in the corporate agendas they may represent, but also in the language they speak and the cultures in which they live.

Managing a project across a dedicated team of individuals working for one company in a couple locations is trivial by comparison. Managing a project’s critical path with a Gantt chart makes sense when you have a dedicated pool of resources to draw and a set of clearly understood requirement to build towards; but what about when your deliverable is soft and your groups members are likely to disappear at any time. Leadership of working groups is more a matter of supplying a vision and enabling communication to speed consensus and compromise.

Interestingly this is exactly the way Open Source works. Resources come and go, decisions are mostly by committee of experts. While I can’t imagine how a corporation could possibly work that way it has managed to deliver the biggest challenges to the most profitable company on the planet (Microsoft) in the form of Apache and Linux.

The Open Source approach advocated is very much what OurMemex is based on the actions of various individuals working together in ad hoc groups to create a higher-level of knowledge and insight than what any single individual is capable of.

Tomorrow: MemexCentral

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